Saturday, February 27, 2010

Welcome to the Tea Table


I am so happy that you are able to join me for tea today. You can find yourself or lose yourself at afternoon tea....

My first remembrance of an afternoon tea is not of a fancy affair with a china tea set, tea sandwiches, scones, cookies, fine linens, candles, and silverware. Oh no, growing up in Akron, Ohio, there were no extras, but we had the basics—food, clothing, shelter, and a strong value system. What we lacked in material wealth was made up in the rich value system and work ethic that were daily drummed into our heads with a sprinkle of love by Minnie Bell Gooden (Minnie B.), my mother.

Growing up there were the two of us: Wilma, my older sister, and me. Although my sister was four years older, momma dressed us alike, except if Wilma wore a blue plaid dress, then I wore a red one. We wore black-and-white or brown-and-white Stride-Rite saddle-white oxford shoes to school and black patent leather shoes on Sunday. Momma always invested in good shoes because they had to last. She wore Andrew Geller shoes. We longed for the day when we could wear penny loafers, but she always said loafers do not provide enough support for growing feet. Our hair was parted so that we had bangs and two braids with ribbons like Pippy Longstocking. On Easter, we would wear our hair out in curls.

This short introduction to my past lays the foundation for my tea journey. In some households, afternoon tea and all the accoutrements are a way of life, but afternoon tea is not reserved just for the rich and famous. Afternoon tea is for anyone who likes to dress up and play make-believe. I was introduced to tea quite by accident when every Christmas Wilma and I received a white doll with a porcelain face that said “Momma” when you laid her down. Each year the color of the doll’s dress would vary from pink to blue. If mine was pink, then Wilma’s was blue, and vice versa. My father worked at Firestone Rubber Factory. Each Christmas the company would give a big Christmas party for the families of the workers, and each child would receive a toy. So each Christmas Wilma and I could count on at least two gifts. The one from Firestone came in a big box, and we could not wait for Christmas to open it. When Christmas came, we were pleasantly surprised to find a complete tea set with teapots, plates, cups and saucers, a creamer and sugar bowl, and flatware, all plastic.

Wilma and I would go outside under the apple tree and set our tea table in the grass. We invited our dolls to tea. We filled a jar with dandelions; we had graham crackers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; and we put grass on the plates for watercress. We put our tea sets together so that we had enough plates for everyone. We poured imaginary tea and had a splendid conversation. There were no hats and gloves, scones, tea sandwiches, or fancy pastries. It was an afternoon of innocent play where we used our best manners of “please,” “may I,” and “thank you,” just like momma had taught us around the dinner table. These make-believe tea parties rivaled the one in Alice in Wonderland with the Queen of Hearts and left an indelible impression in my mind that I would replay at some future date. Do you have a tea story you want to share with me. Just remember, "Tea is not just for two."